NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 7, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 7, 2020

NHL still looking at a Jan. 1 start to the 2020-21 season, Brendan Lemieux and MacKenzie Weegar avoid arbitration, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said opening the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1 remains the objective. Pierre LeBrun reports the joint NHL-NHLPA return-to-play committee has yet to meet, though the top leaders of the league and the PA have been in daily contact over the season.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

TVA SPORTS’ Renaud Lavoie reports the NHL hopes to make its return-to-play announcement as soon as possible. “It could take another 7 to 10 days,” tweeted Lavoie. “Lots of works (sic) to be done until then.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL brain trust will likely keep an eye on the NBA’s plans to return to action in December. Both leagues share many of the same arenas. While caution remains the watchword for the NHL, they’ll maintain a close watch on the NBA’s return-to-play for any meaningful information it can apply to its own plans.

I’m skeptical about Lavoie’s timeline for an official start date if the return-to-play committee hasn’t even met yet. It could more than several days to work out an agreement.

NEW YORK POST: Brendan Lemieux avoided salary arbitration with the Rangers, agreeing to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.55 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a slight bump over the $925K Lemieux earned last season. It puts the 24-year-old checking-line winger in a position for another go at arbitration in two year’s time, where he could push for a more substantial pay raise.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers avoided arbitration with MacKenzie Weegar as the 26-year-old defenseman signed a three-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weegar was the subject of some trade speculation but the Panthers obviously value his physical presence on their blue line. Cap Friendly indicates the annual average value is $3.25 million, more than doubling the AAV of his previous contract. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status at the end of this deal.

The signings of Lemieux and Weegar completes this year’s NHL arbitration schedule. Of the 26 players filing for arbitration, only one (Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi) required a hearing.

THE SCORE: cited Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland telling The Edmonton Journal he expects defenseman Oscar Klefbom to be sidelined by a nagging shoulder injury for the entire 2020-21 campaign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been widely assumed Klefbom could miss most or all of the coming season. The Oilers can place him on long-term injury reserve if necessary to get some salary-cap wiggle room for a potential replacement.

NHL.COM: Former NHL defenseman Jim Neilson has passed away at age 79. Neilson spent 12 of his 16 NHL seasons (1962-63 to 1977-78) with the New York Rangers, followed by two seasons with the California Golden Seals and two with the Cleveland Barons. A solid stay-at-home defender, Neilson played 1, 024 games, amassing 368 points. He also spent one season in the WHA with the Edmonton Oilers before retiring in 1979.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Neilson’s family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 6, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 6, 2020

The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Dumba and MacKenzie Weeger in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON BYFUGLIEN AND DUMBA

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo considers it the notion of Dustin Byfuglien signing with the Minnesota Wild a long shot. The 35-year-old defenseman has shown no interest in returning to action after missing last season and terminating his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images).

Talk of Byfuglien joining the Wild was sparked in part by speculation they were on the verge of trading Matt Dumba. However, Russo reports the Dumba trade talk has quieted while the Wild’s cap space has shrunk to $1.775 million.

Russo feels if Wild general manager Bill Guerin attempted to trade the blueliner now he won’t get a first- or second-line center in return. Teams aren’t moving those types of players right now, Dumba’s coming off a down year and the expansion draft is slated for next summer. Guerin isn’t in any rush to trade the rearguard, who’s got three years remaining on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly also indicates Dumba carries an annual average value of $6 million, which is now tough to move with only seven teams carrying over $6.9 million in cap space. As for Byfuglien, Russo also noted his agent remains hopeful his client might one day decide to sign with the Wild. For now, however, the big blueliner doesn’t seem keen to return to NHL action.

UPDATE ON WEEGAR

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, George Richards was asked about the trade speculation regarding MacKenzie Weegar. Richards said the Florida Panthers were working to sign the restricted free agent defenseman to a four-year contract before his arbitration hearing on Nov. 7. He acknowledged the Panthers are listening to offers but teams thinking they can get him for nothing will be disappointed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards expects Weegar will return on the top defense pairing alongside Aaron Ekblad. The blueliner’s hearing would be the last one in this year’s arbitration schedule.










The Dog Days Have Arrived in the 2020 NHL Offseason

The Dog Days Have Arrived in the 2020 NHL Offseason

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 4, 2020

The latest on the notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox examined the latest regarding the remaining notable NHL restricted free agents.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello reportedly hopes to sign center Mathew Barzal to around $7.5 million per season. The young center’s camp would prefer a higher figure. Fox feels it’s highly unlikely a rival club will sign Barzal to an offer sheet worth $10.9 million or more per season as the compensation to the Isles would be four first-round picks.

Speaking of the Isles, Fox considers it a no-brainer they’ll sign defenseman Ryan Pulock after trading Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche in a cost-cutting move last month. Pulock’s arbitration hearing is on Nov. 6.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An offer sheet for Barzal remains possible but increasingly unlikely. With Cap Friendly indicating 23 of the Isles rivals have less than $10 million in cap space (22 of those with less than $7 million), the possibility of an offer sheet remains remote.

Whatever Pulock gets on his contract will put a big bite into the Isles’ $8.9 million cap space. They’re allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but must be cap compliant when next season begins. Lamoriello must shed some salary to sign Barzal and ensure he’s under the cap.

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue having difficulty freeing up salary-cap space to sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. GM Julien BriseBois has attempted to move veteran winger Tyler Johnson but his difficulties doing so indicate how hard it is to shed salary under the current economic conditions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois will have to package Johnson with a good draft pick or a quality prospect as a sweetener. Even then, he might have to pick up part of his $5 million salary-cap hit. He could find it easier trading Alex Killorn but could still be squeezed to add a pick or prospect in the deal.

Contract talks between the Columbus Blue Jackets and center Pierre-Luc Dubois have stalled but GM Jarmo Kekalainen remains unconcerned. He pointed out Zach Werenski didn’t sign last year until just before training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Jackets also have over $12 million in cap space as a sufficient offer-sheet deterrent. No wonder Kekalainen isn’t worried.

Contract talks between the New Jersey Devils and Mackenzie Blackwood are expected to pick up shortly. The Devils bought out Cory Schneider and brought in a suitable mentor for Blackwood in Corey Crawford. Fox speculates he could seek a deal comparable to the two-year, $8 million contract of Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins. He also doesn’t expect the Devils will have much difficulty signing winger Jesper Bratt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have over $17 million in cap space. Even if they don’t spend to the cap, they’ve got enough for Blackwood and Bratt.

Fox thinks second-line winger Jake DeBrusk’s contract talks have taken a back seat to the Boston Bruins’ attempts to reshape their blueline after losing Torey Krug to free agency. That’s led to DeBrusk popping up in the trade rumor mill. With over $6 million in cap space, the Bruins have room to sign him but they’re also poking around the UFA market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk lacks arbitration rights so the Bruins could ink him to an affordable bridge contract. That would leave enough cap room to add a defenseman via the UFA market.

Ryan Strome’s upcoming arbitration case could be worth watching. Fox cited the New York Post’s Larry Brooks back in April speculating the Rangers would prefer signing the center to a one-year contract without going through arbitration. The Rangers had debated not qualifying Strome’s rights before doing so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks reported Strome filed for a one-year contract worth $5.7 million with an arbitrator while the Rangers countered with $3.6 million. He speculated they could walk away if the arbiter awards Strome over $4.538 million.

Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar surfaced in trade speculation but GM Bill Zito insisted he remains a member of the Panthers. The blueliner is slated for arbitration on Nov. 8. Fox speculates Weegar could use Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s four-year, $14.75 million contract ($3.687 million AAV) as a comparable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weegar’s situation could also bear watching if it takes arbitration to settle his contract. Perhaps Zito attempts to trade the rearguard if an arbiter-awarded salary is more than the Panthers are willing to pay.

Fox suggests St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could end up with an affordable bridge contract. The 23-year-old is coming off his entry-level deal. The same goes for Edmonton Oilers blueliner Ethan Bear.

Fox also projected the next salary for forward Roope Hintz could come in around $3 million, which will fit within the Dallas Stars’ $4.1 million cap space. It’s expected the Philadelphia Flyers will sign defenseman Philippe Myers to a short-term deal but there could be some benefit to locking him up to a longer-term deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

A look at the top remaining unrestricted free agents, three potential Canadiens’ trade candidates, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP REMAINING UFAS

SPORTSNET: Winger Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Mikael Granlund and Ilya Kovalchuk, along with defenseman Travis Hamonic top Emily Sadler’s list of the best remaining players in this year’s NHL unrestricted free agent market.

Winger Mike Hoffman is among the best remaining players in this year’s NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman and Dadonov are the best of the bunch but they could end up signing for considerably less than they hoped given the current economic climate. I wouldn’t be surprised if interested clubs are using the market against both wingers to drive down their asking prices.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reported yesterday Granlund was in discussions with multiple teams and is whittling down his list to find the best fit. He doesn’t know if the Blue Jackets are among them.

Centers Erik Haula and Carl Soderberg, left-wingers Anthony Duclair and Andreas Athanasiou, and defenseman Sami Vatanen fill out the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four are on my recent listing of possible bargain signings.

The rest include centers Alex Galchenyuk, Derick Brassard and Joe Thornton, wingers Corey Perry, Colin Wilson, Matt Martin, Patrick Marleau and Conor Sheary and defenseman Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Stars bringing back Perry on another affordable one-year deal. A recent report claimed the San Jose Sharks could bring back Marleau. Thornton could also be back with the Sharks while Chara is expected to return with the Boston Bruins.

POTENTIAL CANADIENS TRADE CANDIDATES

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens’ signing of winger Tyler Toffoli yesterday leaves the club sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $353K. They’ll have to offload over $1 million to become cap compliant before the start of next season. Trade options could include Jordan Weal ($1.4 million), Paul Byron ($3.4 million) and Joel Armia ($2.6 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byron has three seasons left on his contract. TVA Sports noted he has two 20-goal seasons on his resume but his production declined due to injuries over the last two seasons. His cap hit could make him the most difficult to move.

Armia or Weal are more affordable but they probably won’t have as much value as Byron in the trade market. The Canadiens have 14 picks in next year’s draft so perhaps one of those selections could be packaged with one of those players as a sweetener.

The Canadiens also have eight defensemen under NHL contract for next season. Brett Kulak surfaced in recent trade chatter so perhaps there might be a market for him. Kukak is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $1.85 million.

BRUINS INTERESTED IN WEEGAR?

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites three sources claiming the Bruins have shown interest in MacKenzie Weegar. The rugged 26-year-old defenseman recently filed for salary arbitration. Word around the league is the Panthers have been shopping Weegar for some time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy points out Weegar’s a right-hand shot while the Bruins’ biggest need is a left-shot defenseman. He also wonders how the Bruins will address the departure of Torey Krug.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2019

The Devils provide an elaborate welcome for P.K. Subban, the Leafs acquire Jordan Schmaltz from the Blues, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: The New Jersey Devils provided a red-carpet welcome for P.K. Subban as they formally introduced the defenseman to over 200 fans at Prudential Center yesterday. The Devils acquired Subban during last month’s NHL Draft. Subban was also presented with a Ric Flair-style robe.

 

 

The New Jersey Devils staged an elaborate formal introduction of P.K. Subban to their fans yesterday (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been a busy summer for the Devils. In addition to acquiring Subban for a song from the Nashville Predators, they selected top prospect Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick in this year’s draft and signed power forward Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5-million contract. The Devils might not be done making moves. I’ll have more in the Rumors section. 

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Jordan Schmaltz from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for blueliner Andreas Borgman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas continues to wheel and deal. Schmaltz is his latest move, coming on the heels of his recent acquisition of permanently sidelined winger David Clarkson with the intent of placing him on long-term injury reserve.

Schmaltz, a first-round pick by the Blues in the 2012 draft, is a once-promising puck-moving defenseman who struggled to crack the Blues lineup. A right-shot rearguard, he’ll provide additional depth at that position for the Leafs.

WGR550: An arbiter awarded Buffalo Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues a one-year contract worth $2 million. Rodrigues sought $2.65 million while the Sabres countered with $1.5 million.

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers accepted an arbiter’s award of a one-year contract for defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. Cap Friendly indicates the salary is $1.6 million. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes agreed to a two-year affiliation deal with the ECHL’s Rapid City Rush.